When Missouri takes the court on Thursday night to face Memphis, there is one thing you should avoid doing…blinking. Since both Memphis and Missouri excel in transition and both love to play at a frantic pace, the question becomes “What happens when speed meets speed?”
Dubbed the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball,” Missouri’s relentless pressure and up-tempo style are why this young club has advanced to the Sweet 16. But unlike Missouri's first two opponents, Memphis isn’t going to be intimidated by the speed of the game.
Easy lay-ups in the first two rounds will now be contested shots. Open men on the wings will now have hands in their faces. Their opponent will be faster (if that's possible) and better prepared for their pressure than any team they have faced all year.
If Missouri expects to make a return to the Elite 8, it's going to take more than speed to get them there.
1. Don’t Fall In Love With the Three
When Missouri plays a team that takes (and makes) a lot of threes, they tend to get sucked into a three-point shootout. Problem is, Missouri isn’t a great perimeter team by any stretch of the imagination.
Outside of senior Matt Lawrence and freshman Kimmie English, the Tigers are anything but a threat from deep. Coupled with the fact that when both players go cold, they go sub-Arctic, Missouri will find better success pounding the ball inside to senior sensations Leo Lyons and Demarre Carroll.
2. Get Touches For the Seniors Not Named Lawrence
The Tigers run a frantic motion offense where everyone is constantly in…well, motion. Dominated by off-the-ball screens, this offense is most successful when the taller players with best court vision (i.e. Carroll and Lyons) are prominently involved.
Get the ball in their talented hands, let the other Tigers find open spaces on the floor and Missouri will feast on easy jumpers and lay-ups all game long.
3. Weather the Storm (or Storms)
Memphis is GOING to go on a run or two. It’s a fact. They are too good and have too many weapons not to run off a few buckets here and there. In order to beat them, Missouri will have to keep those runs short while continuing to play their game.
If they start forcing the issue when they suddenly find themselves down 10, they WILL soon find themselves down 30 and heading home. Patience, on both ends of the court, will go a long way to keeping them in the game.
4) Get Lucky
After all, this is the NCAA Tournament. You need to be good AND lucky to win. Upsets happen. Good teams lose all the time.
Tournament games often come down being in a position to take advantage of a lucky break. The question is: Will Missouri be ready when the ball bounces their way?